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Thread: xc vs cx bikes

  1. #1
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    xc vs cx bikes

    I rode my 2nd ever cross race today, and it was on the only bike I have, my fs 29er Felt Edict. It does have a lockout front and rear but I chose not to use it... Maybe I should have, dunno. For reference, it weighs just under 23lbs with rocket rons front and rear. I should say that my strengths on singletrack are the technical sections, and my leg power is just ok...My ftp is about 240 watts. I'm racing cat 4/5, and finding I out corner people a lot. Is that my wider tires talking, or are cx bikes just as grippy, and corner just as well?

    I found a lot that I was going hard into corners catching the guy in front w late braking and good handling, just to have to panic when they seem to have to slow down a lot more. Several times, I had to really jam the brakes when they would suddenly hit theirs mid corner. Is that just the unpredictability of bottom cat riders? It sure worked for them to keep me at Bay if they did it on purpose. I loose all momentum and waste a lot of energy spinning up my big tires again.

    Im mainly wondering how much better does a cx bike roll/accelerate on normal grass.

    How much better does a MTN bike on 2.3/2.1 inch tires corner?

    What should I do in the corners to help keep from having to jab the brakes mid corner to avoid people? Leave more room and time the corner later to pass?

  2. #2
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    There's always a tradeoff, and you've correctly identified a couple. MTN brakes and tires have an advantage in braking and cornering, cross tires accelerate faster and climb faster.

    You should have your suspension locked out for any cross race, your putting yourself at a greater disadvantage if you don't. I've found that depending on the course and conditions, sometimes a lightweight MTN bike is faster, and sometimes a cross bike is faster. Just depends on the day.

    What you need to do is anticipate better. Now you know your strong and weak points, exploit any advantage you can and minimize your weaknesses. Take a different line, make a pass in a braking zone before the corner, and when all else fails, throw elbows. (don't do that)
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    So... Passing in corners.... I read that taking the inside line to pass someone in cross is bad etiquette. If I go outside i felt like they're likely to run I to me. I probably could have done either one a lot. I'm new to cross and feel like I stand out w the MTN bike. I assume there are some that think I'm a jerk for not bringing the right bike, so I'm trying not to be a noob and give MTN bikers a bad vibe. Am I being over conscious about it?

    One other detail to the owner out there is that I felt in general, people on cross bikes didnt set up their corner going wide enough, and that's why they had to hit the brakes when they realized they were carrying too much speed.

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    It's a race, sometimes you have to rub elbows with your competitors. That doesn't mean racing dirty, or endangering someone to make a pass. That's not cool. But it's still a race, sometimes you have to make a move to make a pass. If you drop the guy you just passed then it was a good pass. If not, he'll probably pass you back. If you really want to be super polite about it you can call out your move before you do it, sometimes they'll even give you a little room.

    I raced cross on my MTB for the first two years. No big deal. I know plenty of guys who show up with two bikes. A cross bike and a hardtail/rigid MTB, whichever they think will be faster that day.

    Cross tires are "supposed" to be limited to 33c width max. That's pretty skinny, and most cross racers run medium or file tread tires because they roll faster which means they generally have very limited grip in the corners. Even with an aggressive tire it's never going to corner like a MTB.

    It's all just for laughs anyway. I've always maintained the mentality that I want to do the best I possibly can without taking things too far or risk endangering another rider. I say ride till you puke, and if your going to take someone out, make sure it's only yourself.
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    Ok, that sounds great. Thanks!

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    Sounds like you might be running into the lower skills of lower cats. I'm always amazed at how much traction I have available on my CX bike (entry level CX I bought from a friend). I was hopping up and over a small log and intentionally landing slightly leaned over to initiate a turn on the landing, never had a traction problem. Only place I had a problem was the gravel, but that is kind of "duh".

    I just looked at my last CX race (January) where they had CX and short track XC. The STXC was a slightly shorter version of the CX course, so it is really hard to directly compare, I can only look at the average speed. I averaged over 1.5 MPH faster on my entry aluminum CX compared to my XC bike, even though the CX race was 4 miles and 15 minutes longer. So that tells me that the CX bike is significantly faster than an XC bike. I didn't feel the wider (I think at the time I was running 2.1's) tires on the XC were providing a traction advantage.

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    Cat 4/5s (and most 3s) are actually bad at cornering, they will often early-apex and have to slam on the brakes to keep from going off into the tape at the exit. Set up wide and pass on the inside while they're braking at the outside at the exit (but watch your 6 for someone moving up on the inside).
    Re passing on the inside; the only bad manners is if you stuff someone in the corner, and it happens a lot in all cats. To do it property; just get alongside/even on the inside before the corner, then the corner is yours, - don't get your front wheel even with his rear wheel and expect to not get stuffed/cut off. My 'mentor' says "the guy on the inside owns the corner", and it is true.

    The trade offs are pretty small from a good light mtb to a cx bike, and the rougher (or sandy) and more like mtb it is the more it favors the mtb, smoother/hardpack favors the cx bike, but it's probably over 97% your legs&skills.
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

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    If you're using suspension and 2.1 tires you also have a massive advantage over the other guys on any corner.

    Nobody cares at lower level, but if you move up you'll have to use rigid and 35mm or smaller tires.

    Move all the way up and they might not like you use your flat handlebars.

    I'd say racing lower skilled guys who overall are worse at cornering couple with a big advantage you have on them is why you're experiencing.

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    If you're good at cornering you'll smoke the 4s in corners on either bike.
    I got back into bike racing, starting in cx 5 years ago, I had raced expert/cat1 25 years ago in my early 20s. I did a lot of autocross during the break, where you learn about cornering (or you fail miserably). Starting back in cat4, after being fat and out of shape, I was amazed at how bad the 4s were at cornering, I was doing a lot of passing in the corners (but not on the straights) on my cx bike. I moved up to 3s the next year, they're a bit better in the corners but still make lots of errors, especially in complex corners (I still make a lot of errors too). The following year I won my 3s group points series and got booted up to 1/2s (masters of course). 1/2s are much better overall in the corners, but there are still a lot of opportunities to pass in the corners.
    2 weeks ago I raced my hardtail 29er because the course was especially bumpy, and I didn't want a sore neck for days after the race like the year prior. No-one gave me a hard time at all, and I had my best finish yet in 1/2s, a 2nd by 7 seconds, and no sore neck, -fun race on that bike. I plan to race the cx bike next weekend (finally just recently setup tubeless), and the hardtail at the event after which is another rough course.
    If your mtb is legal, and it seems like more fun, just race it. If anybody says anything, say: "I know it's slower, but I'm just here to have fun".
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimPacNW View Post
    If your mtb is legal, and it seems like more fun, just race it.
    Are there any rules other than drop bars and tire width that would make it NOT legal?

    I love how they set up interesting Corner combinations sometimes. :-) I've done several different types of racing from go karts to dirt bikes and xc mtb. I studied racing lines extensively when I was into go karts. I suppose I'm very much the Miata of the biking world, not much engine but at least I handle well. :-). This summer was my first year racing with pedals though, and I'm really falling in love with it. :-) I just recently bought a trainer for the winter so I can work on some "engine mods". LOL

    I don't know the different types of racing very well at all in bicycling. Are there any types of races that I should be looking for that really stress the cornering skills, kind of like an autocross in cars maybe? I don't even have a road bike because I have a hard time with the monotony of Road writing, but if I could find something like that it might give me a reason to have a road / cross bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thumper33 View Post
    Are there any rules other than drop bars and tire width that would make it NOT legal?

    I love how they set up interesting Corner combinations sometimes. :-) I've done several different types of racing from go karts to dirt bikes and xc mtb. I studied racing lines extensively when I was into go karts. I suppose I'm very much the Miata of the biking world, not much engine but at least I handle well. :-). This summer was my first year racing with pedals though, and I'm really falling in love with it. :-) I just recently bought a trainer for the winter so I can work on some "engine mods". LOL

    I don't know the different types of racing very well at all in bicycling. Are there any types of races that I should be looking for that really stress the cornering skills, kind of like an autocross in cars maybe? I don't even have a road bike because I have a hard time with the monotony of Road writing, but if I could find something like that it might give me a reason to have a road / cross bike.
    While there are similarities to car and motorcycle racing, there are massive differences because of available traction and the lack of a necessity to lean that effects available traction. MX is a lot of squaring off corners that waste huge amounts of energy when you are pedaling.

    Watch upper level CX racers, see what they are doing, and practice that.

    If you are bored in road riding, you are probably doing it wrong. There are so many mountains to climb, so many beautiful sights to see, and so much distance you can travel on the road, all while working on your fitness. Most of my fitness is from road riding, my skill comes from my weekly MTB rides and transfer from road racing motorcycles.

    Check with your local organization for rules on CX and what bikes are allowed. A lot of groups allow MTB up to a certain skill level, then you need drop bars and narrow tires. Basically, the guys who are taking it seriously vs the folks just having fun.

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    Everybody is different; I also dislike road riding, a two hour road ride seems to take forever, but 2 hours on dirt is nothing. I find the value of road training is in the longer efforts, and I try to ride road about once every two weeks or more often if I can, but I do pretty well dirt racing by training primarily on dirt.
    thumper; I don't see much that car racing has on bike racing, other than absolute speed, bike racing has everything else at a fraction of the cost. You will have to 'build your engine', there's no event where cornering alone will give you the overall edge; One of my last cx races in the 3s, me and another guy were trading places at the front, he'd pull away on the straight, I'd catch him in the twisties and pass in the complex corners, then he'd catch me and pass on the straight, -the whole race!, unfortunately for me the finish was at the end of a 100yd straight, but I beat him in points for the series.
    I think it's mostly the 'sanctioned' races (where you need a license) that have rules about tire width or drop bars, UCI points races are even more strict.
    Didn't one of the top world pros race a cross bike with flat bars 10 years ago or so?, was it Thomas Frischknech? I think they all prohibit 'forward facing bar ends'.
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

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    I think you guys misunderstand me when I'm comparing biking to the other types of racing. I only mean that the knowledge of racing lines four different sports really helps as a foundation for choosing lines in cyclocross.

    Also, I think I must have I said it wrong when I was talking about building an engine. By no means was I saying that I did not want to. I'm getting faster little by little, and really look forward to having more power, especially for the climbs and such. Climbs are totally in my weakness, and I'm hitting the trainer hard this fall and winter to try in correct that. :-).

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    Yes, knowing what you know about corners will be really helpful. It takes a lot of patience over a lot of time (several years if you're older) to build a big engine, so be patient and persistent!
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

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    One of the points of CX, IMHO, is to ride a CX bike b/c well...it's harder! The guys on MTBs usually do well b/c the bikes handle so much better with the wider tires and geo. It really depends on the course. No surprise that you out-corned guys on what amounts to road bikes on a mtb.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TiGeo View Post
    One of the points of CX, IMHO, is to ride a CX bike b/c well...it's harder! The guys on MTBs usually do well b/c the bikes handle so much better with the wider tires and geo. It really depends on the course. No surprise that you out-corned guys on what amounts to road bikes on a mtb.
    Therein lies the conundrum of CX. For the hardcore devotees, it amounts to sacrilege to ride a bike that may ultimately be WAY better suited for the course and make more rational sense. But that's not really the point then, is it?
    "The only way we can truly control the outcome of a ride is not going on it, which is a choice I'm unwilling to make." -K.B.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TiGeo View Post
    One of the points of CX, IMHO, is to ride a CX bike b/c well...it's harder! The guys on MTBs usually do well b/c the bikes handle so much better with the wider tires and geo. It really depends on the course. No surprise that you out-corned guys on what amounts to road bikes on a mtb.
    I did not find that to be the case when I raced my 29er mtb on 2.25s a couple of weeks ago. I race with one guy in particular quite a bit, he and I are pretty closely matched in spring mtb and I was on his wheel for two laps at the season opener on labor day (both on cx bikes that day) until I had a 'tape incident'.
    I was chasing him on his cx bike (me on the mtb) until he started flatting, I passed him while he was bike changing in the pits and he chased me as long as he could (I had a better motor late in the race). The cornering speed was surprisingly equal on flat smooth ground or grass, I think the mtb with fat tires would be faster cornering only if it was rough or slick. The mtb had the clear advantage on the soft sandy sections & the sand pit, and the fast/rough descents. Cx bikes were faster accelerating and faster on smooth hard, easier to carry too.
    I did get passed/lapped by a recent jr nat champ on his cx bike (he was racing open, they start a minute before masters), I could barely hang with him for a couple of corners, and part of a gravel slight downhill, until I ran out of engine for that. I've race mtb with him, and his pace was about the same amount faster than mine as it typically is. The age-group WC guy just can pass me in any corner on any bike.
    I've heard that tubulars for cx offer big gains in grip and speed, but I don't have that budget, and one buddy has had nothing but trouble with his tubulars. I have just switched from tubes to tubeless, and I'm confident the lower pressures will give some more corner grip and rough ground speed (as compared to my old wheels/tires with tubes).
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

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    Here's a link to a great interview with Ashley Frieberg (race car driver) on CX racing: https://www.cxmagazine.com/ashley-fr...neak-peek-2015

    If you're looking for an excuse to get a new bike (and who isn't - n+1), a CX bike is a great addition (especially if you spring for an extra wheelset)! I bought my CX bike 4 years ago to ride less technical single-track. Then I tried CX racing and loved it. Then I got into riding gravel roads and loved it. My absolutely favorite thing to do with the bike is a "Cruxpedition" - a ride that combines road and single-track (I have a Specialized Crux) where I pop into a couple miles of single-track, then ride road (preferably dirt), then pop in and do more single-track, then more road, etc. Kingdom Trails in VT is the PERFECT place to do this. The cross bike brings a whole new dimension to single-track - you have to be more careful on the downhills so you don't flat, but it climbs like a billy goat. It also makes a perfectly good road bike (not a race bike) if you put on slicks.

    As for CX races, I'd say that on most courses I ride, a CX bike has the advantage - but it really depends on the course. A friend of mine rode his mtb because his CX bike was broken, and he was significantly farther back in the pack than he is on a CX bike.

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    MTB certainly do work but, generally speaking, are not optimal. I race MTB and cross and have for several years now. I think a MTB can have a slight advantage in races that are super technical and they allow you to take unique lines...not to mention the tires are much more durable so you can hammer the $^&@ out of them over roots and rocks. And there are the stairs:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4C-gEvZgDQ

    But outside of this, a cross bike is an advantage. Based on most corners in cross race, with a few exceptions, a cross bike is not going to limit you with it's narrow tires, assuming you have the right narrow tires. Off camber bumpy / rocky corners sure, but any 'grip' advantage on a tight switchback 180 a MTB has, a cross bike is going to negate with the fact it's going to turn sharper and be more agile.

    Also in Mud, narrow aggressive tires tend to work better than MTB tires.

    My three biggest concerns would be:
    1) Wide bars is hit or miss but can be a liability on starts or though traffic.
    2) Weight. It adds up over a race, particularly on races with a lot of run-ups (or in mud).
    3) Shouldering...which is the biggest concern really, you can't do it (well) on a MTB, particularly not one with suspension.

    In sand I think the narrow tires work better, they track better and offer much lower rolling resistance if you can hit your line / other persons track. If your just grinding along in a sand section, a MTB allows you to float and pedal sure, but would wager a bet you'd be better off running with a cross bike.

    Use those MTB skills and don't be scared to be aggressive! We all get yelled at, I still do (always by the lower Cat's, all my Cat 1 racing buddies just give me a high five for a good pass after the race). Just be safe and stick the pass. Don't come it tight, make a pass only to blow up and get passed again 2 seconds later, just be smart about it.

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    Sand; it's really easy to burn a bunch of your matches in sand without intending to, and if you're not a strong runner you can easily give up too much while running.
    There's a local course that uses the beach of a lake, it has 200-300' of sand, plus a shorter sand return section. I rode my 29er there a couple of years ago when I was still in cat3, I think I won by about a minute and a half. Sand will accept all of your matches if you let it. That course sucked all the fight out of the other guys, I just floated over the top. Put the 2.3's on the 29er hardtail for the courses with a lot of sand, a really sandy course will be the most favorable for the mtb in my opinion/experience.
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimPacNW View Post
    Sand; it's really easy to burn a bunch of your matches in sand without intending to, and if you're not a strong runner you can easily give up too much while running.
    There's a local course that uses the beach of a lake, it has 200-300' of sand, plus a shorter sand return section. I rode my 29er there a couple of years ago when I was still in cat3, I think I won by about a minute and a half. Sand will accept all of your matches if you let it. That course sucked all the fight out of the other guys, I just floated over the top. Put the 2.3's on the 29er hardtail for the courses with a lot of sand, a really sandy course will be the most favorable for the mtb in my opinion/experience.
    Het Meer perhaps?

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    Great thoughts and info here. I also just did my first cyclocross race a few weeks ago and am racing today and hopefully tomorrow on my Trek Fuel EX.

    I had my suspension locked but put too much air in my tires ( 32psi ). Will run today closer to my MTB pressure ( 23-24 ).

    I am hooked as I had a ball. Now I can't think stopping about a CX bike. Probably a Boone or Crockett. I just bought a new road bike several months ago which puts a $$ barrier.

    I also wonder how much I'd use it other than CX as I don't live near any gravel roads and already have 2 road bikes, MTB and a commute bike.

    I suspect I will pull the trigger as I can't stop thinking about it.
    Will definitely get am much info as I can today from other racers.

    For today its time to hammer on the XC bike and have some fun!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArizRider View Post
    MTB certainly do work but, generally speaking, are not optimal. I race MTB and cross and have for several years now. I think a MTB can have a slight advantage in races that are super technical and they allow you to take unique lines...not to mention the tires are much more durable so you can hammer the $^&@ out of them over roots and rocks. And there are the stairs:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4C-gEvZgDQ

    But outside of this, a cross bike is an advantage. Based on most corners in cross race, with a few exceptions, a cross bike is not going to limit you with it's narrow tires, assuming you have the right narrow tires. Off camber bumpy / rocky corners sure, but any 'grip' advantage on a tight switchback 180 a MTB has, a cross bike is going to negate with the fact it's going to turn sharper and be more agile.

    Also in Mud, narrow aggressive tires tend to work better than MTB tires.

    My three biggest concerns would be:
    1) Wide bars is hit or miss but can be a liability on starts or though traffic.
    2) Weight. It adds up over a race, particularly on races with a lot of run-ups (or in mud).
    3) Shouldering...which is the biggest concern really, you can't do it (well) on a MTB, particularly not one with suspension.

    In sand I think the narrow tires work better, they track better and offer much lower rolling resistance if you can hit your line / other persons track. If your just grinding along in a sand section, a MTB allows you to float and pedal sure, but would wager a bet you'd be better off running with a cross bike.

    Use those MTB skills and don't be scared to be aggressive! We all get yelled at, I still do (always by the lower Cat's, all my Cat 1 racing buddies just give me a high five for a good pass after the race). Just be safe and stick the pass. Don't come it tight, make a pass only to blow up and get passed again 2 seconds later, just be smart about it.
    Agree with all of this - The MTB can be great on technical cross courses but it starts to suck when the proper mud comes in. We race in some quagmires here in the UK and you'd be pedalling to a standstill on any sort of MTB tyre. Then you'd have to run with it which isn't as comfy as the CX bike slung over the shoulder.
    Being smooth on the dismounts / carry / remounts reliably gets you places and it's tougher with the MTB. The fast guys are supersmooth but even midpack where I am it makes a difference. Everyone is breathing out their arse and getting a bit ragged so just basic competence here will put you ahead.

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    I had my first bad CX experience on a MTB over the weekend. The course was super flat and I also had to run my (new) tires at a much higher pressure than normal (30/26 vs 21/18), as they were leaking. My momentum just got absolutely crushed everywhere on the course. I actually averaged 60W+ higher than the winner (we exchanged PM data after the race), and still lost by a solid minute (had a few technical errors as well that probably cost me 30-40s too). Going to try some 1.9 tires and keep the dream alive for now, but I now know what kind of serious disadvantages big, overinflated tires can have on a CX race.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steelhmr View Post
    I had my first bad CX experience on a MTB over the weekend. The course was super flat and I also had to run my (new) tires at a much higher pressure than normal (30/26 vs 21/18), as they were leaking. My momentum just got absolutely crushed everywhere on the course. I actually averaged 60W+ higher than the winner (we exchanged PM data after the race), and still lost by a solid minute (had a few technical errors as well that probably cost me 30-40s too). Going to try some 1.9 tires and keep the dream alive for now, but I now know what kind of serious disadvantages big, overinflated tires can have on a CX race.
    Keep with it. You'll be surprised (or maybe not and you are way ahead of me when I first started) how much the little things add up to over a lap. Power advantage aside, just the little things, taking a corner right, shouldering the bike correctly and quickly, dismounting at right time is several second a lap x 6/7/8 laps = minutes, several in some cases.

    It's part of the reason the best Americans go to Belgium, have similar power outputs, but get beat by 4, 5, 6+ minutes in a race.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArizRider View Post
    Keep with it. You'll be surprised (or maybe not and you are way ahead of me when I first started) how much the little things add up to over a lap. Power advantage aside, just the little things, taking a corner right, shouldering the bike correctly and quickly, dismounting at right time is several second a lap x 6/7/8 laps = minutes, several in some cases.

    It's part of the reason the best Americans go to Belgium, have similar power outputs, but get beat by 4, 5, 6+ minutes in a race.
    Thanks. To be clear, I meant that was my first bad race, and was my 5th CX race overall. Previously to that my experience has been "hmmm, no MTB disadvantage that I can see." The terrain, overall speed and lack of climbing really changed that for this particular race. And yeah, the mistakes really compounded themselves this time as well. It was certainly a learning experience. Saturday we should be back to 75-100'/mile of climbing and I'm expecting a much better result.

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    I raced my mtb again last sunday, I didn't feel great (felt a little 'off', weak quads on the run-ups compared to how I usually feel, and didn't feel like I had any real 'fire'). I still got 7th, within a minute of the winner, so I did quite well considering. It seems that my flat ground and climbing speed are very similar bike to bike (comparing to the same guys, over a couple of races), I lost some ground on the run-up, but confidence on bunny hopping the short barriers was a plus.
    I was better on the snaky descent, through an old orchard, but because there wasn't any good place to pass in the descent I'd get stuck behind the guys on the cx bikes. When I could get ahead prior to the descent I made up some ground there. I had to make a bigger effort prior to the descent to make a pass, or if it looked like I was going to be stuck I could take a small break prior to the descent and catch up in the orchard while resting, but then it was flat ground to try to pass on later.

    I find I do pretty much the same on my mtb (cat1/2 masters), and on a rough course (aren't they all?) my neck feels a lot better afterwards on the mtb. The next race will be very mtb-ish, the same group does a lot of summer races there, so it should be a good venue for the mtb.
    carry clippers! cut something off the trail every time you ride.

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